To the editors:

While Neal Pollack may be uninterested in hearing what anyone other than himself thinks about the upcoming attack on Iraq (“Everybody Shut Up!” February 28), he should remember that however smug, self-righteous, and lacking in originality some of the pundits and so-called “poets” may be, they nonetheless do speak for a lot of people besides themselves. As such, their remarks do help to constitute a public “debate,” which for all its obvious imperfections does not need to be put inside quotation marks, and which had better happen in abundance now, before our government launches into the serious business of killing people.

By refusing to heed Pollack’s exhortation to “shut up,” the pundits and poets collectively make it a tiny bit more difficult for the Bush administration to sell its war plans to a doubtful world. Their main job right now is not to provide entertainment or lasting literary merit, but to help stimulate thought in the minds of citizens–especially those rare ones who are willing to form their opinions after, not before, hearing the arguments on both sides. The free speech that gluts our publications, radios, and television screens may not adequately reflect all possible viewpoints and may not be of uniform intellectual brilliance, but it is what we have, and we need it now more than ever.

Pollack, however, seems less interested in actually hearing the arguments for and against war than in combing them for literary flaws. Perhaps this helps him feel superior (in the context of his essay, his occasional squeaks of humility ring remarkably false), or perhaps it’s only symptomatic of a vain desire to attract attention by saying something shocking. If Pollack is bored by what the journalists and commentators have to say–fine, he doesn’t have to read them. But if his response to the imminent slaughter of thousands of Iraqi children and adults who never freely voted for Saddam Hussein is “Well, the planet’s already dying, let ‘er rip and see what happens,” maybe he should do this dying planet a favor by flying to Iraq and offering his own soft American ass as the first to be blown up.

Renaldo Migaldi